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Forest Hills playwright looks at love gone wrong

By Kevin Zimmerman

Forest Hills native Michael Brody doesn’t call himself a playwright, yet.

Although Brody, 30, has written short stories and screenplays since he was 6 years old, he only recently turned his attention to the stage and his play, “Survey,” which will be performed at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center Feb. 7.

The semi-autobiographical comedy-drama revolves around a guy, who after being dumped by his fiancée attempts to figure out why all of his relationships seem to have ended this same way. To do that, the character, Tom, heads out to visit with each of his exes.

“When I got this idea, I immediately thought play,” Brody said. “I knew it was going to be about conversations. And my strong suit has always been dialogue. But as a movie that runs the risk of being boring.”

But as a fiction writer, Brody rarely uses his creativity to focus on life’s dull routines. That’s not to say he doesn’t find inspiration in places other people might overlook.

“Ideas come to me when I look at real life and see the potential of what could happen and doesn’t,” Brody said. “It’s sort of life amped up.”

The volume of Brody’s life tended to register on the low end of the dial through his days at Forest Hills High School and later at Hunter College, where he earned a degree in English.

He settled into jobs in retail management and kept up with his writing crafting movie reviews for the website CinemaBlend.

Unfortunately, his love life failed to fare as well as his professional one.

After a 2 1/2-year relationship ended, when the woman broke it off, Brody decided it was time for a little bit of self-reflection and immediately saw a pattern with him as the antagonist.

“She was a sweetheart and I was not the best version of myself,” Brody said. “It made me think, how many times was it me? Then I started to ask myself what could I have done better?”

The more he ruminated over the failed romances, the more he realized he had the makings of a play.

He knew he wanted to make the lead character unlikable but not too much. Tom might be selfish and ignorant of how his behavior affects others, Brody said, but he is not a monster.

“He truly is not a bad person and my intention was to show that honestly,” Brody said. “Basically, he had to go through an epiphany. He had to go through five years in a moment.”

To do that, Tom visits his ex-girlfriends and for the first time listens to what they have to say about him, his actions and why they ended the relationships.

“The theme is really about the importance of listening,” Brody said. “You have to give yourself a chance to grow and be the best version of yourself.”

Last February, after the world-premiere of “Survey” at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Brody sought feedback from friends and audience members.

“It did touch a lot of people and did make people laugh,” Brody said. “I also listened to what people didn’t like — I sort of suspected what it was that they wouldn’t like.”

Brody then spent the rest of last year reworking the script and addressing the criticisms the play earned.

But he decided not to change the fact that Tom is not totally to blame.

“It’s really about the middle ground, not who’s right and who’s wrong,” Brody said. “There’s a balance. Somebody’s going to leave the theater and say he was right. And somebody else is going to say he was wrong.”

One thing that Brody opted to definitely change was the director. He directed the first version to play LaGuardia. This time around, he decided to let someone with an extensive theater background to run the show, so he can focus on the writing.

He already has four ideas for new plays and intends to begin writing the next one the day after “Survey” plays in Long Island City.

“Most writers write because we can’t hold it all in,” Brody said. “I’m going to let it all out and hope what comes out has a purpose. I think this time it does.”

If You Go

“Survey”

When: Friday, Feb. 7, 8 pm

Where: LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, 31-10 Thomson Ave., Long Island City

Cost: $10

Contact: (718) 482-5151

Website: www.lagcc.cuny.edu/lpac

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